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What is Malware and Why Should I Care?

March 12, 2024
min read
A Windows computer screen with a popup of a malicious file

What is Malware?

The word malware is the combination of the words “malicious” and “software”. Malware is a catch all term to describe any software that is used for nefarious purposes. 

Malware is created by cyber criminals and used to gain access to personal information on a device. 

What's the difference between malware and a virus?

  1. Malware (Malicious Software):
    • Malware is a broad term that encompasses various types of malicious software designed to harm or exploit computer systems.
    • It includes viruses, worms, spyware, adware, trojan horses, ransomware, and other harmful programs.
    • Malware can be introduced into a system through various means, such as infected websites, email attachments, or malicious downloads.
  2. Computer Virus:
    • A computer virus is a specific type of malware that attaches itself to a legitimate program or file and spreads by replicating when that program or file is executed.
    • Viruses often require human intervention to spread, such as opening an infected email attachment or running an infected program.
    • They can damage files, slow down a computer, or even delete data.

In summary, malware is the broader category that includes various types of harmful software, while a computer virus is a specific type of malware that spreads by attaching itself to legitimate programs or files and requires human action to propagate.

Why is malware dangerous?

Malware is dangerous to us because it can be used to:

  • Steal our data
  • Damage a device
  • Take control of a device
  • Corrupt the computer network
Malware is like a parasite. You may not realize it’s there but the parasite is wreaking havoc on your body.

There are many ways that malware can get onto a device but the most common ways are:

  • Clicking on a phishing link
  • Downloading a file
  • Inserting a USB flash drive to a device
  • Downloading an apps
  • Downloading attachments in an email 

What if I accidentally downloaded malware?

You may not always realize when you accidentally downloaded malware but there are indicators to keep an eye out for.

Some indicators that you might have malware on your device are:

  • You run a scan of your computer and malware is identified
  • You are unable to perform regular actions on your computer such as
    • Restarting your computer
    • Deleting a downloaded file
  • Your computer is behaving in unexpected ways
    • Crashing or shutting down regularly
    • Pop ups and advertisements showing up everywhere
    • Emails being sent without your consent
    • Device defaults automatically changing

If you realize you have accidentally downloaded malware onto your device you can do two things to remove it:

  • Run a scan of malware
    • Typically provided through anti-virus software
  • Complete a factory reset of the device
    • The steps to executing a factory reset depends on the type of device but make sure your data is backed up before doing so

Navigate Confidently

The best way to avoid malware is to take a closer look before you click a link or download anything onto your computer. Due diligence before taking an action can save a lot of future pain and frustration.

However, we all slip up. It’s ok. But remember time is your enemy, you need to act fast. 

With these tips and tools you can take control of your online presence, ensuring a safer and more secure digital experience. 

Reach out to us with any and all inquiries on how to stay safe in an increasingly scary digital world.

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